How much are my airline loyalty program points miles worth

How much are my airline hotel loyalty program points and miles worth?

In Travel by Eat Drink Stay Dubai2 Comments

How much are my airline/hotel loyalty program points and miles worth?

 

One of the most-asked questions in travel hacking is “How much are my airline/hotel loyalty program points and miles worth?”

 

 

The answer is……. there is no answer.

The reason is, it depends on a multitude of factors, such as:-

  • GOAL – It depends on what you want to spend them on
  • PROGRAM – It depends on which airline/hotel loyalty program you are collecting them in
  • EARN RATE – It depends on how, and at what rate, you are earning them
  • DEVALUATIONS – It depends how often the loyalty program devalues
  • TRANSFERABILITY – It depends if the points/miles can be transferred into another loyalty program (e.g. Starwood/SPG StarPoints transfer to American Airlines AAdvantage)

 

GOAL

Generally, you should be collecting points or miles for:

  • Award nights/hotel stays
  • Award flights/upgrades

Note – Status in a hotel/airline loyalty programs is often earned by stays/actually flying rather than points earning by other means (i.e. credit card spend).

Award nights valuations tend to depend on class of hotel, time of year (high/low season), how much notice before booking etc.

Award flights/upgrades tend to depend on fare class of booking (e.g. Saver or Flex on Emirates), seat availability, alliance/partner airlines (e.g. Star Alliance, SkyTeam or OneWorld).

A good goal for airline loyalty programs is to use Etihad Business Class one way flight to UK currently costs 30,000 American Airlines AAdvantage Miles.

PROGRAM

Not all loyalty programs are created equally, so for instance 10,000 SPG StarPoints is not worth the same as 10,000 Etihad Guest Miles.

As this post on Etihad Business Class redemptions shows, the same flight cashing in Etihad Guest Miles would cost a whopping 71,026 Etihad Guest Miles but only 30,000 American AAdvantage Miles.

Likewise, Starwood hotels redemptions can start as low as 7,000 SPG Starpoints, whereas Hilton may start from 10,000 HHonors Points.

Note – This is why travel hackers often say “YMMV”, which means “Your Mileage May Vary”, as in addition to differences between loyalty programs, deals can quickly change, loopholes get closed down and sometimes human factors such as incompetence affect redemptions.

Another point to consider is often airline/hotel loyalty programs have their own specific terms and conditions. For example, Emirates Skywards do not generally allow one way award flights at Saver level, so Economy Dubai DXB to Brisbane BNE is 36,250 at Saver level if booked as a return but one way Flex Plus is 62,500.

EARN RATE

Earning rates of points and miles can vary wildly, depending on:-

  • promotions
  • classes of flight booking
  • status in the loyalty program

For example, SPG offer their Platinum guests 3 Starpoints per US Dollar spent, but regularly offer promotions such as Double Stay Bonus as well as 500 Starpoints being a checkin bonus offered to Platinums.

DEVALUATIONS

As airlines and hotels look to squeeze their loyalty programs, they often suddenly devalue their award charts.

For example, in 2015 British Airways and Etihad Airways announced devaluations which meant more Avios/miles would be needed for the same flights.

Similarly, American Airlines have announced a devaluation to their award chart starting in late March which could see a redemption that would have costed 30,000 AAdvantage Miles now costing up to 42,500!

TRANSFERABILITY

The best hotel/airline loyalty programs (step forward Starwood Preferred Guest and American Airlines AAdvantage) allow you to either transfer your points/miles into another program, or to spend on a partner program directly.

This is why SPG Starpoints are often treasured by travel hackers, as not only do they transfer to many airline partners (35 at last count) but also they add 5,000 when you transfer 20,000. Additionally, SPG often run promotions such as in 2015, where they contributed another 5,000 on top of the normal 5,000 if you transferred SPG Starpoints into American Airlines AAdvantage.

ONE WAY TO CALCULATE WORTH

One way to calculate the worth of your airline/hotel loyalty program points and miles is to assess them against your own redemption goal.

For example, if you are collecting American Airlines AAdvantage Miles, 30,000 is the magic number as this will get you a Business Class one-way on Etihad Airways from Abu Dhabi AUH to UK, which normally retails around $3,800.

So, divide the cost in dollars of your travel goal by the number of points/miles to achieve it, e.g. 3,800/30,000 would give a value of approx $0.13 for each AAdvantage Mile.

SUMMARY

Although it may seem confusing to value your hotel/airline loyalty program points/miles, hopefully this article will help a little.

As always in travel hacking, two good tips to keep in mind are:-

  • Have your own personal travel goal
  • Research, plan and execute ruthlessly

So, research what is the best hotel/airline loyalty program for you, learn EVERY aspect of it (especially the terms and conditions) and set a travel goal for you to earn points/miles towards.

Keep abreast of all the latest news for your specific loyalty program (top tip – subscribe to our RSS feed here ) especially watching for devaluations.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback via the Comments below….

What travel goals are you working toward?

Has this article helped you?

How many points and miles have you currently in your hotel/airline loyalty program?

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Comments

    1. Author

      Hey William,

      thanks for the great question – it’s actually a great idea for a future article, so will post a more detailed answer then.

      However, are a few circumstances where buying miles can be a good idea.

      Firstly, don’t ever buy or sell miles using a ‘third party’ website, as usually the commissions/rates are very low and poor value. For instance, I had an offer to sell 30,000 KLM miles (which was enough for Dubai to Europe/Amsterdam in Economy) for around $100 – very poor value indeed. Presumably, buying miles from these sites would be equally restrictive in terms of value.

      Secondly, the best schemes for buying miles are usually subscriber-only email deals through the specific loyalty program, e.g. British Airways Executive Club, American Airlines AAdvantage or Starwood Preferred Guest. These programs routinely email the members to offer to sell miles at bargain prices – usually in off-peak or ‘shoulder’ seasons with a time-limited window for purchasing.

      So when is it worth buying miles? Here’s a few situations…..

      If you need to ‘top up’ a small amount of miles. Say you need 42,500 American Airlines AAdvantage miles yet you only have 35,000 – and you want to redeem/book an award flight soon.

      If you have a specific redemption in mind (usually short-notice) and the ‘buy’ cost of the miles is less than the cash cost of the flight. For example, a business class one-way Etihad flight from Abu Dhabi to London is 42,500 AAdvantage miles and the cash cost of the flight can often be around $3,800 (as it has been on two of the last Etihad redemptions I flew). In a recent American Airlines promo for buying miles, they were offering 33,000 (with a bonus 10,000 miles) for $973.50, which is tremendous value if there is availability for the redemption you are looking for.

      If the bonus miles make it worthwhile to buy miles Often when airlines are looking to sell miles, they offer ‘bonus’ miles when you purchase. The more miles you spend, the higher percentage of bonus miles they offer. So in the previous example, if you needed 43,000 miles you need only buy 33,000 as they will gift you the additional 10,000.

      If the cash cost to attain the miles is better value than how you would normally earn those miles. With Starwood Preferred Guest, Gold and Platinum members earn 3 Starpoints for every $1 spend, so 1 Starpoint is earned by spending $0.33. SPG Starpoints transfer at 1:1 (unless you transfer in batches of 20,000, in which case you will be gifted 5,000 bonus for every 20,000 sent). So if you were using SPG to earn AA miles, one AA mile would cost $0.33. Given the latest August promo for AAdvantage, 1,000 miles can be bought for $29.50, so 1 mile costs $0.0295. Note – the more points you buy, the more value you get. The maximum to buy is 150,000 miles (with a bonus of 85,000), which equates to approx $0.019.

      However, in general, the points value offered for purchase is usually not that high, and other long-term or passive methods (e.g. credit card sign-up, credit card spend, hotel stays, dining etc.) for accruing miles are often better value.

      In summary, like everything in this game, ‘Your Mileage May Vary’ so it’s all about carefully checking each specific deal compared to your travel goal.

      Hope this helps!

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